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Devlin's flight with Hawks lands him at Montrose

April 13, 2008|By BOB PARASILITI

A funny thing happened to Ryan Devlin while he was helping to give the junior college experience to athletes at Hagerstown Community College.

He had a junior college experience of his own.

"You get athletes to come to junior college by promising they will go somewhere, and they come in and transfer out," said Devlin, who became HCC's interim men's basketball coach in mid-December when Terry Truax resigned. "I had to look at it the same way for myself. I had to practice what I preached."

While preparing to interview for the Hawks position, an opportunity came out of the blue for Devlin -- one that allowed him to transfer out -- and he took it.

Devlin, a Waynesboro (Pa.) High School graduate, accepted a position as a history teacher and assistant basketball coach at Montrose Christian in Rockville, Md., working under famed head coach Stu Vetter. It was Devlin's work with HCC and a recommendation from Truax that allowed Devlin to take an advancing step in his young coaching career.

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"I didn't get fired. I guess, to put it in terms, I quit," Devlin said. "It's not because of a bad taste in my mouth."

HCC moved in a new direction by hiring Truax last April. The Hawks started out 10-3 until Truax left after the first semester because he couldn't find outside employment to subsidize his coaching job, considered a part-time job by the school.

Devlin took over and guided the Hawks to a 22-8 overall record in the interim capacity. Some HCC players are in the process of being recruited by four-year schools and guard Kelvin Bright received honorable mention honors to the junior college all-America team.

"As a person, I've learned a lot," Devlin said. "At 25, this has matured me. I went from being Terry's right-hand man, then I took over and then to me not knowing if I would get the job. When it comes to the Xs and Os, Terry is the best. My basketball IQ has definitely grown.

"They always say what doesn't kill you will make you stronger. This has given me more confidence to handle things."

And it leaves HCC in the process of looking for a new men's basketball coach.

But it wasn't until after the whirlwind of circumstances for Devlin.

"Once the season was over and I was still considered interim, I had to explore other things in case things with HCC didn't work out," Devlin said. "Coach Vetter told me that if things didn't work out, he'd like to have me on as one of his assistants."

Vetter became acquainted with Devlin because HCC scrimmaged Montrose Christian -- a perennial national high school power -- twice last season. Vetter and Truax are good friends through the coaching profession, which led to the scrimmages.

Before sitting down for his interview with HCC, Devlin stopped in at Montrose to meet athletic director Raymond Burke and look around.

"He asked me what I taught. I told him I have a history degree," Devlin said. "He told me to wait a minute and went and got the headmaster. They said that they had to make a move with one of the teachers in the history department and was wondering if I would be interested in the job."

Devlin met with HCC athletic director Bo Myers, who told him to take the job.

"The upward movement in the coaching ranks is huge, and not just economically," Devlin said. "When I told Bo, he said 'You did a tremendous job here, but you got to go.'"

Myers knew this was an opportunity that Devlin couldn't pass up.

"We are so pleased for Ryan," Myers said. "Ryan was a leading candidate to get our basketball job, but he would probably leave shortly. He's a solid kid and has a great career ahead of him. This is a great opportunity for him and it's great for his growth. I'm happy for him and we'll move on and we'll get by."

Devlin started his Montrose stint on March 31. He admits he's feeling his way around the classroom, but he feels at home when the basketball team hits the floor during their spring training, where he has been given the job of working with the big men -- two of them seven-footers.

"Teaching is hard, but basketball I know," Devlin said. "I'm working with the development of the big men and getting their hands and feet moving. I love it."

It didn't take long for Devlin to realize he was in a different world.

"The first day was a very overwhelming day," he said. "I taught and went to practice. The first thing that happened when I took the floor was a smile and a handshake from Coach K (Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski), who was there to watch practice."

It was all because Devlin spent time in junior college.

"My goal is not to be a high school coach and teach," Devlin said. "I want to move on again, but it's strange because the best way to meet coaches is when they are coming into my gym.

"I was presented with a chance to coach. I could have shied away or stepped up to the plate and hit one out of the park. They gave me a chance and it worked out for everyone."

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